Adoptive/Foster Parents- You are NOT Responsible for the Trauma Your Child Endured Before He Came To You

When dad came to pick us kids up for summer visitation, the departure was swift.  We packed our bags in the trunk of his current car and rushed down the lane, leaving a trail of dust behind us, Mom growing smaller in the distance.  This is the moment the fear gripped me. The familiar faded and the unknown lay before me. The tense anxiety choked me while my stomach churned. Down the highway we sped to another unknown destination; Dad rarely bothered to sit down and explain where we were going and what it would be like this time. The landscape changed from the hills of West Virginia to the bluegrass of Kentucky or the plains of Iowa, where once we raced beside a tornado as it ate up the fields beside us.

Every year, it was a new home in a new state. And every year, it was the same unstable summer, with our travel and activities dictated by someone else’s moodiness or alcoholism. New places did not fill me with hope. They were foreign landscapes with no known retreats or safe hideaways from the too-familiar emotional climate.

The unrest filtered down to me and cemented my fear and presupposition: There is nothing good in the world.

My past gave me a faulty picture of the world. Even today, I struggle with sitting in the backseat of a car. I need to know where we are going on a trip. I don’t just want the directions, I want to see the map. My early life sometimes still dictates my now. I know that. I have strategies to deal with it. My friends know this. They let me sit in the front or drive. It took me years to figure out why I didn’t like to sit in the back seat or why panic rose up in me. Knowing the why helps me deal with it.

Our adopted children don’t know the why or the how. They see through the lens of their past and it is like this old camera. The view is scratched and distorted and they may blame us, the adoptive parents. Can you imagine if I went on a road trip with my friends and blamed them for my fear of riding in the back seat?

Children have a difficult time separating their past from their now, therefore:

You are not responsible for the trauma that happened to me before I came into your family, but I will act like it. If you let guilt rule the home, we will both be miserable and neither of us will experience any healing.

Separating our children’s past from their now is a difficult aspect of adoption. We parents must be the mature ones and not let their reactions to past events determine our reactions. If we do react negatively, then we will live in a constant civil war and more wounds will be inflicted. No healing will take place and the child will be orphaned (rejected) twice. I don’t have my reactions mastered, I wish I did. I am writing this because my daughter Audrey says I should share things that I wish someone would have told me. I wish someone would have told me this: Many of us who have the heart for adoption, the desire to adopt a large sibling group of children, have had a troubled past ourselves. The desire directs us to adopt. It doesn’t equip us. We must equip and educate ourselves.

No one told me that my past and my adopted children’s pasts would engage in a tug of war to the death.

We both had a faulty lens on our camera. Guess who had to change hers first? Me. Guess who had to die? Me. My flesh. Guess who messed up, often? Me. We assume that wrestling with the child means a physical fight and if we are not careful, that is what it becomes. Daily. There is no healing that way.

For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere.- Ephesians 6:12

I have always loved this verse, it sounds so mystical, mysterious. We aren’t supposed to engage in a fight with physical opponents, so how do we fight these master spirits who are the rulers of this present darkness? Ephesians 6:11 commands us to put on our armor that you may be able to stand up against the strategies and deceits of the devil. This is war!

Adoption is war. We are not fighting with a physical sword, our sword is the Word. Our belt is truth. Our feet must be shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. We raise our shield to protect us from the fiery darts of the wicked one. We put on our helmet of salvation (deliverance) and breastplate of righteousness.

What does this look like in reality? Sometimes it means, we just stand. We don’t react when our child melts down and blames us for his hurt, his feeling rejected. We speak the truth in love, “Man, that stinks, how does that make you feel?” And we redirect, “What do you think we could do about that?”

When we disengage our right to react, we become powerful.

And more important than any of the above, we pray. A prayer for healing. Place your child’s name in the blanks:

(Name) __________is not harassed by physical symptoms or feelings or their supposed connections to past events. The curse of rejection and abandonment is broken, _____________ is a new creature with a heavenly Father who loves _________, the Stronghold is broken, the sticky web of the past is dissolved. ___________has forgiven and _________ is forgiven.______________is washed clean and ____________ reactions are based on the Word and the new creature that _____________is, not the old fearful, anxious child that _______________was. NO! ____________ is a strong, assertive child of the King, ______is a co-inheritor with Christ, ________________ have all the benefits that He has bestowed upon me. ______________is more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus.

The Child’s Mistaken Goals (Attachment)

I’ve been talking about attachment on my Whole House Lives on Facebook. Here are some of the points-

When parenting a child who has had trauma in their lives, we must consider the child’s mistaken goals and direct the child to new goals. If you want to know more about trauma, listen to our podcast– The Six Risk Factors.

Mistaken Goals

  1. Unless you pay attention to me, I am nothing. I have a place only when you are busy with me

  2. Struggle for power

  3. Retaliation and revenge

  4. Complete inadequacy

* From Driekurs’s Children the Challenge

A child stuck in survival mode or who has attachment issues, or both can vault like an Olympian between these mistaken goals and we parents can get stuck reacting to them.

Disciplining the unattached child is part of the package deal. We can’t attach to a child and ignore their mistaken goals. The child won’t let us. They will be our face, day and night.

Traditional Parenting Doesn’t Work with Kids From Hard Places

I have a confession to make. I tried spanking. I know, it is often viewed in harsh light nowadays. The media likes to paint a violent picture of a parent with a wide leather strap foaming at the mouth, who is angrily wailing on the child.  That is not spanking in the proper sense. Spanking is a calm, cool parent with loving intentions, one who has not given into angry resentments. The parent speaks calmly to the child about the consequence. There is a purpose and a process that works with a child who has been raised in a secure environment, not for a child who has already experienced abuse and neglect.

This is not a post about spanking. I just want to point out that it didn’t work with my adopted children. It often ended up in a physical tussle. Meltdowns could end that way too if I intervened at the wrong time.

I learned the hard way and through trial and error to leave spanking behind and focus on training (more of this subject later). I just wanted to touch on this subject briefly before I move on. If someone had recorded the spankings I gave my kids with them thrashing, hitting, kicking me and my tiny frame trying to hold them down. It wasn’t pretty. It backfired. I often ended up bruised and sore from them.  I am baring my soul for your sake and the sake of your children.

New Members of the Family

I’ve talked about some rudimentary basics of attachment,  purpose (work) and discipline on my live last week. These are intertwined, just as our spirit, body, mind and emotions are intertwined. A child with attachment difficulties is like a new convert in the church. They have been wounded and battered by the rules of this present darkness, working through humans, wars, famines, and all sorts of evil. These children come into the family with mistaken goals, just as new converts come into the church with faulty foundations. They aren’t sure how to behave, outwardly, physically, what to think, mind and emotions and how to actually walk in the spirit, the pair of themselves they have ignored until the day they joined the family of God.

These children come into the family with mistaken goals, just as new converts come into the church with faulty foundations.

Now, they are new creatures, family members in the house of God the Father, siblings with the son of God, yet they still slide off their chairs during dinner hour and eat scraps off the floor because they don’t know how to sit at the table. They horde manna because they don’t know that Jehovah Jireh provides only for today because today has sufficient worry of its own. All of the “Praise the Lord!” lingo is strange, just as it is weird to call a man “Daddy”, it may have a different and scary meaning for a child/convert raise by a daddy who reeked of alcohol and beat them. Will this new daddy be strict? Will the child slip into retaliation mode? This rears its ugly head when a power struggle ensues. Some people because of their past controllers cannot or will not listen to any branch of authority, so they come into the church family reluctant, refusing to take any advice and chafing at any restrictions.

“In many cases the child’s erroneous ideas and mistaken goals underlying his misbehavior are so well entrenched that it may take more than a correct response to the various acts of provocation. One may have to work toward a deep reconstruction of the child’s basic assumptions, of his personality pattern.” – Children the Challenge, Rudolf Dreikurs, M.D.

The basic beliefs or assumptions must replace the child’s mistaken goals:

  1. I am valuable even if you are not always paying attention to me. I am a son of God and therefore a sibling of Jesus, and heir to the promises of God

  2. I am not in control of everything, neither do I need to be. God is in control and He will take care of me. I can submit to some authority and trust God is in control..

  3. I do not need to retaliate. I can forgive and I am forgiven. I do not be in angry defensive mode. I need to be in trusting acceptance mode.

  4. I do not need to give up on life. I have a purpose. God created me to do good works and I will do them regardless of my  past circumstances. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

“For as many [of you] as were baptized into Christ [into a spiritual union and communion with Christ] the Anointed one, the Messiah] have put on (clothed yourselves with Christ).

There is [now no distinction] neither Jew, nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free there is not male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

And if you belong to Christ [are in Him who is Abraham’s seed], then you are Abraham’s offspring and spiritual heirs according to the promise. – Galatians 3: 27-29

This is a new way of living that says “I can’t act the way I feel like acting anymore. I can’t act impulsively. I cannot run around in survival mode and be a functioning member of a family.”

Most of us came into the family of God in survival mode, i.e., in the flesh, but born of the Spirit. Our names are written in the Lambs book of life. The adoption decree is sealed. We legally belong, but our assumptions haven’t caught up. We don’t believe it. So, we must be patient with our children who come into our families with a different set of values and beliefs. We must parent them with the tools that will lead them to feel secure.

 

Parenting Against the Grain

This week on The Whole House Podcast, we talked about Parenting Against the Grain or parenting counter-culturally. Here are some notes and the podcast itself:

Attachment parenting (AP) is a parenting philosophy that proposes methods which aim to promote the attachment of mother and infant not only by maximal maternal empathy and responsiveness but also by continuous bodily closeness and touch.

Image27 attachment cycle

Breaks in attachment cause all sorts of issues, developmental delays, learning delays, fears and lack of cause and effect thinking. A child who has had significant breaks in attachment has problems with self-regulation.

“Austrian psychoanalyst and physician Rene Spitz proposed an alternate theory. He thought that infants in institutions suffered from lack of love–that they were missing important parental relationships, which in turn was hurting or even killing them.

To test his theory, he compared a group of infants raised in isolated hospital cribs with those raised in a prison by their own incarcerated mothers. If the germs from being locked up with lots of people were the problem, both groups of infants should have done equally poorly. In fact, the hospitalized kids should have done better, given the attempts made at imposing sterile conditions. If love mattered, however, the prisoners’ kids should prevail.

Love won: 37% of the infants kept in the bleak hospital ward died, but there were no deaths at all amongst the infants raised in the prison. The incarcerated babies grew more quickly, were larger and did better in every way Spitz could measure. The orphans who managed to survive the hospital, in contrast, were more likely to contract all types of illnesses. They were scrawny and showed obvious psychological, cognitive and behavioral problems.

Spitz’s study suggested severe mortality risk–more than one in three died–for institutionalized infants. It showed that serious mental health and behavioral problems could result from not having at least one loving parent devoted to a particular child. For decades, however, this research was either ignored or dismissed by behaviorists and others who couldn’t believe that something as vague and seemingly immeasurable as parental love could matter that much.”-Forbes

Dr. Karyn Purvis- Investment Parenting takes time.

Or find us on iTunes- here.

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The Whole House Craft and Cookie Day

The Whole House Craft and Cookie Day! It’s today! We are making cookies and doing some Christmas 🎄 crafts! It will be loud and crazy. Lots of kids and moms and sugar! Do you do a Christmas Craft Day?

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Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, yeah, right? I couldn’t do this! My kids would whine, fight and that would be the end of it.

Can I tell you something? You’re probably right. Your kids may whine. Some of them may not want to do every craft or cookie. Things might go wrong. It won’t be perfect.  Do it anyway.

WHAT?! Yes, do it anyway! Forming a habit of celebration means things won’t be exactly the way you picture them. It will be worth it in the long run. Every time you practice the habit of celebration, you build a memory. Every time you build a memory with your child, you are reinforcing connection.

I have had some cookie days gone wrong, so I speak from experience. I’m preaching to the Guire here. I have four boys who liked to make cookie mounds and messes on cookie days. This totally messed with perfectionist Mama until I changed my attitude. And it was hard to change my attitude. I wanted perfectly decorated cookies like you see on the Instagram accounts and Pinterest.

One year, I drove to my daughter’s house in another state and left my cookie dough at home. Everyone thought I would have tons of cookie dough, so no one else made any.  Daughter Audrey ran out to get some. We used store bought that year (perfectionist me loses again). And…we had a blast!

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When we remember the goal and purpose of the habit of celebration, it makes it easier to practice it. When we expect the celebration to be perfect, we are less likely to practice the habit.

The goal of celebration is time spend together, celebrating people, not things. The purpose of celebration is connection. We connect with our children, family and friends. We when participate in celebration with a light, joyful attitude, the connection grows. When we expect perfect circumstances and perfectly behaved children, we will be disappointed and our attitudes will sour (been there, done that).

Let’s build some memories this year! Plan a cookie and craft day. Don’t stress about it looking like Pinterest Perfect Posts. Make it real and fun. Practice the habit of celebration and build some memories!

When Nurturing Your Children Doesn’t Come Naturally

Friend Patty was sporty, fit and planned to become an astronaut. Instead, she became a wife and mother. Patty didn’t feel as if she had a mothering instinct. Lovey-dovey stuff didn’t come easy to her. She worked hard to curb her military manner. Because she worked so hard, she became an excellent parent. One of the best I have had the privilege of knowing. She lived in the moment and believed her children are precious. Her children are grown now and thriving.

Patty was my first honest Mom friend. She told me the truth about how she felt about Mothering. She felt as if she had to overcome many personality obstacles to be nurturing. By the grace of God, she did. I’m thankful for her honesty. She inspired me to work against the grain of my flesh and be a purposeful parent.

Honestly, being loving and nurturing toward our children is hard work. Why? Because it requires true Biblical love and that is the hardest kind of love on the planet. It’s the kind of love that doesn’t fail, hardly notices when it has been wrong and this kind of love believes the best of everyone.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end. (I Corinthians 13: 7b, The Message)

“Our culture depicts a “good mother” as an angel in the house who is naturally sweet, self-denying, and eternally loving. The media creation expectations that mother-love, like our culturally formed vision of romantic love, is something you fall into, a delightful sinkhole that leaves you so sated that you don’t want to climb out.”- Leslie Fields via Parenting is Your Highest Calling and 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt

While there may be sunny days when everything goes just right for five minutes and we have coffee, most days aren’t picture perfect. Although we love our children, some days we just don’t like them. They behave badly and we’re exhausted.  We dangle at the end of our rope. It’s in these moments, behind closed doors,that Biblical nurturing love is hardest to walk out. It’s in these moments that we woman can not do anything in our own strength. It’s in these moments that Christ’s suffering is close. He meets us there on the battlefield. He understands. It’s in those moments when our flesh is fierce.

My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?- Galatians 5:17

We are naturally selfish beings. Our regenerated spirit wars with the flesh. What does that mean? We want our own way. We joylessly grab for whatever we think will make us happy at the moment, five more minutes sleep, one more chapter, a perfectly clean home, a late night movie. We develop a brutal temper when we don’t get what we want. When we do get what we want as a result of yelling or manipulation, we feel lonely, empty, depleted and a deep sense of shame. I know. Lived there in the pit myself. It’s muddy and stinky. There is no peace in the ‘me first’ land of motherhood.

So, what’s the answer? How do we nurture our children when we just want to be left alone? How do we become the nurturing, loving Mother we want to become. How do we fight our selfish nature? One moment at a time. One prayer at a time. One renewing our mind and our bodies at a time. One desperate prayer at a time. When we submit to God’s way, it doesn’t mean we will feel joyful at the time. We constantly have our own Garden of Gethsemane moments.

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.- Hebrews 12:4

Endeavors requiring the most selfless effort yield the most fruit..png

Motherhood may be the hardest work you”ll ever do. If you are having one of those days when you hit your nurture groove, enjoy it! If you are having a day when behaviors are straining every nerve, I hear you. I know. It’s hard. Keep praying. Keep asking. Don’t give up. Endeavors requiring the most selfless effort yield the most fruit. Obstacles don’t mean you have failed. They mean you are running the right course.

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.- Galatians 5: 22-23

Nurturing occurs on a battlefield for hearts and minds. It is on the home front we are winning souls and making disciples. “Discipleship is the work of a lifetime, and it comes… sometimes slowly… in fits and starts….two steps forward, one step back…When we develop a long-range vision believe God’s promise that our work will not go unrewarded. Grace is the heart attitude that grants others the freedom to listen and learn so that they grow, they master the skill of cultivating long-term relationships.” (Sally Clarkson) The goal of nurturing is attachment. The goal of attachment is long term relationships. Relationships with our children transfer to relationships with God the Father.